Oconto County receives broadband grant for faster internet in rural areas

OCONTO COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - "Particularly in rural areas, access to high speed internet connections is one of the barriers that applies," said Governor Scott Walker.

Thousands of homes and businesses in northern rural Oconto County will soon have faster internet. That new internet is possible because of grant money from the Wisconsin Public Service Commission. The PSC is awarding $7.69 million to improve internet service in 33 Wisconsin counties.

Gov. Walker visited Oconto Falls to award the largest grant from the state's Broadband Expansion Grant Program.

Right now northern Oconto County towns including Breed, Riverview and Lakewood have a hard time getting online.

John Ogorek says having slow access to the internet is a big hurdle for his business.

"It's a huge barrier. I mean, I can't bring millennials to this area because once they find out that they can't get internet speeds above 1.5 megabytes per second, they're not going to come. That's the biggest impact to Nicolet Plastics right now,” said Ogorek, CEO of Nicolet Plastics in Lakewood.

"One of the most important things is that we think this is another key tool to keeping our young people, our graduates, our high school and college graduates here in the state of Wisconsin. If they have access to high speed internet connections, they can do business globally, literally with anyone in the world, and then suddenly all the other things," said Governor Walker.

The largest grant awarded was $600,000 to Bertram Communications. The $600,000 grant will be matched by Bertram Communications to build towers for faster internet speeds to more than 3,800 homes and business locations, including those in northern Oconto County.

Faster internet will help businesses, education and healthcare in the area.

"Home based businesses, businesses that are here or would like to be here can't be here because they can't get the access, schoolchildren trying to get their work done or parents trying to help get their work done is a really big deal up here," said Mark Dodge with Bertram Communications.

The PSC also awarded nearly $50,000 to Nsight Teleservices, helping install two miles of fiber optic cable to the Oconto Falls Business Park.

“This is great. I mean, this initiative will clear one of them big hurdles, that we have to bring people up here, or keeping people here, and that's huge,” said Ogorek.

Walker says the next round of grants by PSC totaling $7 million will be awarded later this fall.

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